Sunday, May 14, 2017

The First Race - 6 Years Later

            It’s hard to believe that I ran my very first road race 6 years ago today.  I can still remember it like it was yesterday.  I had been a runner in 7th and 8th grade but lost interest in high school.  My Uncle Steve had taken up running again and he told me I should run the Boston Marathon with him.  This was 2006.  I figured why not try?   I ran 5 miles along the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Dennis after not warming up.  It was a huge failure.  I pulled every muscle in both legs, it took six weeks before I could walk right.  I quietly retired.  Grand opening, grand closing.

Arriving on race day in my Old Navy fleece.
Fast forward 5 years.  I had only begun running again 6 weeks earlier, as a way of trying to get the attention of a girl I was interested in.  One ten-minute mile got me hooked, that and the fact that she was helping coach me.  I rushed into my first race, a 5K, because I was actually seeing and feeling the difference running was making in my life.  I lost 12 pounds from my first run to race day and in all would lose 40 total before plateauing.

Recently I came across a photo my Uncle Steve took of me arriving at the event.  I definitely looked the part of a running novice wearing my Old Navy fleece rather than a track jacket like I would do many times after.  One thing was the same then as it is now, I started running in Brooks shoes and to this day I still do.  Well, I will admit that I have tried others, Saucony, Asics, Mizuno, New Balance, but none of them work for me like Brooks.

            I had a wheat bagel and Dannon toasted coconut vanilla Greek yogurt as my prerace meal.  That would become a staple that I superstitiously still hold on to today.  Another staple from that day was choosing my starting line theme song.  Every good movie needs a good soundtrack, right?  I chose the entrance theme of WWE Superstar Triple H, performed by the band Motorhead, as my theme.  The opening line is ‘It’s time to play the game,’ and that was how I felt, like I was an athlete making my big league debut.
And the aftermath
Not to disrespect anyone who ran that race but my feeling of being an athlete making his debut might have been a bit much for the CapeAbilities 5K in Hyannis, Massachusetts.  Sure there were some great runners, but many were average folks, and some walkers, not exactly the Olympics.

            I was grateful to my Uncle Steve, a veteran of more marathons that I have total races, as he was thrilled I was joining his club and decided not only to run the race too but shadow me along the way.  He slummed it up with me, barely breaking a sweat.  It was a gray and cool mid-Spring morning made cooler by the fact that much of the race was along the water.

            I made a rookie mistake of inhaling a GU Energy Gel less than halfway into the race.  Anyone not familiar with them they are a thick gel filled with carbs, electrolytes and other essential minerals to help fatigued runners get an extra burst.  Sounds good and it is.  However the people that use these things are usually waist-deep in a marathon, or at least a half, not a little over a mile.  Anyway, I started gagging on it trying to force the stuff down.  I am sure my uncle rolled his eyes a bit.

Sorry kids, I'll stay seated.
            I was gassed just over 2 miles in, not that I had any ideas of winning.  As I came around the last turn to head toward the finish line my uncle asked me what I had left in the tank.

            “Nothing!” I said.  He told me to give it everything I had and finish strong.  My brain understood but my body sputtered along like an old go kart.  I crossed the finish line just as my sister Kate, her boyfriend Jim, and my nieces Kaleigh and Emma, and nephew Landon arrived.  They got to see me cross the finish line and crash to the ground in a heap.

            In what would become another race tradition I found a nice quiet spot of grass on which to lay.  I was exhausted but the kids wanted to take photos, they gathered around me like an old man in a rocking chair.  I had finished 39th overall, with a time of 24:28, a pace of 7:53/mile.

            I had a feeling of accomplishment that I had rarely felt.  It showed me that when I really wanted something, or occasionally someone, I could do it.  It was something to be proud of, and something that anybody with the desire can do too.  Races are exhilarating, the running community is something everyone should be a part of.  I have done 40 races now and still remember this first one above all the others.  I guess it is part of my origin story.

            Six years have passed and many things have changed.  I have been injured more than enough to make someone want to quit, but the running bug is real.  I have trained for, and run a full marathon, and also been injured while training for said marathon.  I love running but the concept of 20+ mile training runs does not appeal to me anymore.  I have run races with some of my closest friends, run races with my mother, and maybe have helped inspire others to take up running as well. 

Fitting symmetry, my current shoes and my first shoes, both red & silver Brooks.

            Honestly even with all of the changes that have occurred in these six years I would do it all again.  This chapter has been one of the best, and worst, of my life.  I do pride myself on never being boring and predictable though.  So in that way it has been a resounding success.

            Thanks for reading, maybe I’ll see you on the road someday!            

The Game - Motorhead

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